An in-depth view of the mid-infrared properties of point sources and the diffuse ISM in the SMC giant HII region, N66

Whelan, David G.; Lebouteiller, Vianney; Galliano, Frédéric; Peeters, Els; Bernard-Salas, Jeronimo; Johnson, Kelsey E.; Indebetouw, Rémy and Brandl, Bernhard R. (2013). An in-depth view of the mid-infrared properties of point sources and the diffuse ISM in the SMC giant HII region, N66. Astrophysical Journal, 771(1), article no. 16.



The focus of this work is to study mid-infrared point sources and the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) in the low-metallicity (~0.2 ) giant HII region N66 using the Spitzer Space Telescope's Infrared Spectrograph. We study 14 targeted infrared point sources as well as spectra of the diffuse ISM that is representative of both the photodissociation regions (PDRs) and the HII regions. Among the point source spectra, we spectroscopically confirm that the brightest mid-infrared point source is a massive embedded young stellar object, we detect silicates in emission associated with two young stellar clusters, and we observe spectral features of a known B[e] supergiant that are more commonly associated with Herbig Be stars. In the diffuse ISM, we provide additional evidence that the very small grain population is being photodestroyed in the hard radiation field. The 11.3 μm PAH complex emission exhibits an unexplained centroid shift in both the point source and ISM spectra that should be investigated at higher signal-to-noise and resolution. Unlike studies of other regions, the 6.2 μm and 7.7 μm band fluxes are decoupled; the data points cover a large range of I7.7/I11.3 PAH ratio values within a narrow band of I6.2/I11.3 ratio values. Furthermore, there is a spread in PAH ionization, being more neutral in the dense PDR where the radiation field is relatively soft, but ionized in the diffuse ISM/PDR. By contrast, the PAH size distribution appears to be independent of local ionization state. Important to unresolved studies of extragalactic low-metallicity star-forming regions, we find that emission from the infrared-bright point sources accounts for only 20-35% of the PAH emission from the entire region. These results make a comparative dataset to other star-forming regions with similarly hard and strong radiation fields.

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